I got back from the Chicago media outing last week. It's always interesting to go to that. It was a little bit of a new territory for us with us being nationally ranked. It was a different set of questions to answer.
Basically, preseason rankings don't mean a heck of a lot. It was flattering for us to be picked third (in the Big Ten). Those rankings weren't correct a couple of years ago. We'll see how it all pans out.
The big thing is that our players realize the rankings are pretty much based on what you've done in the past. We have had some success. Our players realize that anything we've done yesterday or today really isn't going to get us anywhere tomorrow.
We've got 11 games to play. I don't think that anybody on our schedule is too concerned about what we've done in the past. They're more concerned with what's going to happen this fall.
That being said, the playing field has leveled off a bit. Our players the last couple of years have realized that each and every time we take the field if we do our jobs properly, we'll have a chance to compete. That's about all you can ask.
The summer program went real well. Based on what I've seen since Sunday when the guys reported, our team is ready to go. We have had two workouts in shorts. You can't determine an awful lot other than the attitude seems to be real good at this point. Obviously we'll know more when the weather gets warmer and the hitting has gone on for a week or so. We'll see how everybody is holding up atthat point.
As I said last week, we expected to be in good shape academically, and that's where we find ourselves right now. We're in good shape that way, probably as good as we've ever been.
Medically, there are three players that we expected not to be ready at the start of camp. Brian Ferentz, Dave Walker and Zach Gableman all had surgeries over the passed several months. Those guys are working back right now. We don't expect any of them to be full speed during camp.
One other new development that I'll mention, it took place a couple of weeks ago, Brock ita, one of our second-year players, has been diagnosed with testicular cancer. He recently underwent surgery. I'm real happy to say that everything has gone really, really well to date.
His attitude is fantastic. He went home to Danville with his family. Everything is moving along there in good shape.
I'll throw it out for questions:
What concerns you most about your offense?
I don't know if there's one area. One thing that I would say, we're probably in a position where we can't afford too many injuries.
We need to keep people healthy so we can get some continuity. That's probably true at all positions.
Are you committed to having one quarterback?
We'll see what happens. In a perfect world, you'd like to have a guy that's going to take the ball and go with it. But we're also going to keep an open mind. We'll do what's best for our football team.
Is it going to be tough to tell a kid (Drew Tate) that's been throwing the ball around all of his life to reel it in a little?
I don't think so. Both Drew and Jason (Manson) are team guys all of the way. They're very coachable. The one thing about the spring was that they weren't holding back at all. They were taking some shots.
In spring practice, that's fine. They were taking some shots that you don't want to see on a game field, that's for sure.
To me, you'd rather try to harness a player and try to pull him back a little than try to prod him and push him. It was a good thing, a healthy thing to see those guys out there competing aggressively and not afraid to take chances.
This is the time of year now where we try to educate guys with the decision they have to make. There's a time to take a shot and there's a time it's not so smart. Those are some of the lessons that Coach (Ken) O'Keefe and the other guys are trying to get across to the quarterbacks.
Is Drew the clear No. 1?
Right now he is firm. Maybe that's a good word. Clear or firm, I don't know.
But we have a lot of practice. We have 28 workouts before we get to the first ballgame. So, we'll just see how things go. And that's true with everybody on our football team.
How confident are you that (David) Walker will be ready for the first game?
I'm not confident he'll be back for the first game. Achilles are tough. It's a matter of the healing having to take it's course.
He's working on it right now. I wouldn't want to try to predict. Hopefully somewhere we'll get him out there on the game field in the month of September. He hasn't put a helmet on. He hasn't done anything full speed.
He's pretty good on a bike. That won't help us on the field. (laughter)
Will any of the true freshmen play?
We're open to anything right now. The best opportunity would probably be on the defensive side of the ball.
We're at the point right now where if we feel a freshman can help us and it's a smart move for the freshman involved and the team, we're definitely open to it. And there are certainly a lot of opportunities on special teams. That would be the first way a guy can get his feet wet.
After five years, is this where you'd have hope the program would be?
I never had a five-year plan or a five-year vision. I never looked at things that way and I never have. I try to focus on what's right in front of us.
Obviously I have to look to the future a little bit. That's part of my job. But our focus is trying to maximize the opportunity in front of us. We're not looking any further than November whenever when we finish the season.
As you guys have gotten better has your job of selling things to the players become more difficult or different?
The challenges are always different. When you're 1-10 it's certainly different than when you're 10-1. The nice thing is that when you're having some success, you can probably push guys a little harder. When things are going a little bit bumpy, the No. 1 job is to keep everybody's chins up.
Will you always have a scholarship kicker now?
As long as the right one is out there. If you get a situation where you have somebody on campus...that was the Rob Houghtlin story. Rob was here as a walk-on. Anytime you see a guy daily that is worthy of a scholarship, you take that path. We'd leave that door open.